D. 202 candidates sound off on Evanston H.S. issues
Participants are seated for the District 202 Candidate Forum at Haven Middle School in Evanston. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 1, 2013 6:53AM
EVANSTON — Although city streets are sometimes dangerous, Evanston Township High School is safe.
ETHS needs to better attract vocationally minded students to its excellent technical and career programs.
Actual consolidation with Evanston-Skokie School District 65 is probably not a good idea, but virtual consolidation is an excellent idea.
Those were among the issues on which eight candidates for the ETHS District 202 board seemed to generally agree during a candidate forum at Haven Middle School in Evanston last week.
Meanwhile, the candidates, including two incumbents, expressed a wide range of opinions on what the school does best and what the school most needs to improve.
Several candidates argued that ETHS must do more to bridge the gap between low- and high-achieving students, to better address students as individuals and to better prepare some students for life after high school.
“We must find a way to make more students achieve at a higher level,” said Casey Miller, an attorney who served on the Evanston Board of Ethics from 2003-2005. “A certain segment is not achieving to that level of excellence.”
“Not all students are leaving well-prepared,” added Elena Garcia Ansani, an educational researcher who has served on the city’s Race Relations Planning Committee/Human Relations Commission.
Too often ETHS fails to address the needs of each student as an individual, said incumbent Gretchen Livingston, an attorney who has served one term on the board. “Too often in a large school, we lump our students into categories,” Livingston said.
“The challenge is tailoring programs for individuals,” said Andy Bezaitis, chief operating officer for CellTrak, Inc., who has not held public office. “Some kids can find ways to tailor programs for themselves, but many kids cannot.”
Incumbent Deborah Graham, a writer and editor who has served one term on the board, argued that ETHS must increase communication with District 65. “Unless we address the lack of writing proficiency among freshman, the achievement gap will continue,” Graham said.
ETHS’s best traits are academic excellence, the “transformative” effect it has on students, and the availability of high-level courses to all students, several candidates agreed.
“ETHS is thinking critically about making higher level classes available for all students and keeping the achievement levels high for high achieving students, as well,” said Patricia Savage-Williams, special education coordinator at New Trier High School, who has not held public office.
“Two extraordinary things are the system of academic support and academic performance,” said Doug Holt, corporate communications director at Northern Trust and a member of the District 65 Ad Hoc Citizens Budget Committee in 2011. “ETHS is really exceptional and was recently recognized for both national and international excellence.”
Bill Geiger, CEO of the McGaw YMCA, who has not held public office, praised ETHS for the “transformative” experience it offered him and continues to provide today. “We have reason to be proud of our outstanding teachers, staff, administrators and board,” Geiger said.